Friday, March 9, 2018


Mrs. Deathrage uncharacteristically asked to watch this film. First, a little backstory: Over the past few months, we had been accidentally watching History Channel's Hunt For The Zodiac Killer, which is one of those overlong investigative reality programs involving too many recaps and flashbacks following new examinations into the lurid, unsolved serial killings in California during the late 60s. Making five episodes seem like 500, each episode runs over and over ground it has covered to keep eyeballs on the program, and it's extremely effective.

So, when Mrs. Deathrage suddenly expressed interest in the film about the Zodiac Killings by David Fincher, I was pretty thrilled. I was under the impression she was intrigued by the ciphers, the investigation, the killer's maniacal taunting of several California police investigations, and wanted to see Fincher's take on the material.

Obviously, I was somewhat curious as to why she was so interested in watching Zodiac. Unfortunately, I made the terrible mistake of asking. The reason she wanted to watch it is because, and I quote, 'It's full of hot guys', and I really should have known.

I suppose if that is what it's going to take to get my wife to watch a nearly 3-hour long police procedural full of cryptography, handwriting analysis, and unsolvable riddles, then so be it.

This is my third viewing of Zodiac, and every time I get something new out of it. This time, it has come to my attention that composer David Shire used textures from Charles Ives' piece entitled The Unanswered Question to represent the haunted, obsessed cartoonist Robert Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), and my mind is blown.

Serene strings provide a steady, unwavering background. A distant trumpet asks a question, seemingly oblivious to the tempo of the strings. The woodwinds try to answer, but ultimately give up in atonal frustration. David Shire could easily have used any unsettling orchestral music to symbolize Graysmith's never-ending search for the answer to Zodiac's puzzles, but to use this specific work adds a lovely, subliminal depth to Gyllenhaal's dissonant, inquisitive character. Amazing. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Baking could be considered an apt metaphor for my life.

I don't bake. It requires science, which is something I've always been interested in. Unfortunately, science involves a bunch of rules which must be followed. I don't often follow the rules.

My family threw me in the back of a car and drove me out to an ancient flour mill last weekend. I'm not 100% certain why, but I'm assuming someone needed flour. I didn't really need any flour, since I don't bake. The building was a well-preserved, 140-year old, functioning mill, with creaking wood floors and walls equipped with wooden shelves, stocked to bursting with flours, sauces, mixes, and various other things required for baking, and because I'm an idiot, I spent $40 on a couple of bottles of breakfast syrups, a chocolate sauce, and a brownie mix. I'm not sure why. I guess I just got caught up in the atmosphere.

I blame it all on the gingham. Old-timey wooden baskets, lined with gingham fabric, filled with brownie mixes. Yeah, that was probably it.

That gingham will get ya.

A moment ago I was compelled to attempt to bake this ridiculous brownie mix into something edible, which is a ludicrous idea. 95% of the things I bake turn into pastries of regret.

I picked up the mix, and read the instructions. Seems simple enough, "Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 13x9 inch pan. Do not use butter".

It only takes three steps for everything to go wrong.

Becoming irate, I stared at the package. How dare these flour mill people tell me what to do? I'll use butter if I want to, test kitchens and their expertise be damned. And maybe I don't want to use a 13x9 pan? Maybe I'll make the damned thing in a bundt pan, just to show these people and their 140-year old flour mill they aren't the boss of me? I'll throw the lot into a bowl, give it a quick stir, butter the crap out of a bundt pan, sling the slop into it, angrily jam it into the oven, and then be completely surprised when the results are less than desirable.

Reconsidering, I put the mix back into the cabinet. Mrs. Deathrage should handle this, I think. I don't really want any brownies right now anyway.

It's not the brownies, really, or the flour mill. And it's not as though I can't follow a recipe.

When I cook, I follow recipes all the time. Sort of. Well, with a few modifications. And a tweak or two. And some substitutions.

Upon reflection, maybe I really can't follow a recipe.

It starts out fine, then I'm all like, "Like hell I'm doing that. I'll do this instead. It'll turn out OK". But with cooking, substitutions can be easily made. It doesn't work that way with baking. I'm not sure why, and I don't want anyone to explain it to me.

So the metaphor is this, I think. Even though I have the recipe, and I know how it might turn out, I'll throw caution to the wind to do it my way, rushing headlong into realms I know to avoid, only to be greeted with culinary disaster. And then drive to the bakery and buy brownies made by a brownie professional anyway. Is that even a metaphor? Who knows?

Anyway, speaking of creaky old buildings filled with disaster, I watched the Netflix thriller Mercy quite some time ago, and never got around to finishing the review. Maybe I should've left it in the cabinet. Here it is anyway.

Four asshole brothers and their crotchety father bicker in a lonely farmhouse over the fate of their seriously ill, bedridden mother in this not-quite-thrilling thriller.

The relationship between the two pairs of morose, mono-syllabic, squabbling brothers is explored for the first half-hour, where they are concerned about getting cut out of an inheritance once their mother kicks the bucket, and it's established fairly quickly that everyone standing upright is an enormous ass.

The other female character that isn't silent and trapped in a bed is slightly introduced and her relationship with one of the interchangeable brothers is momentarily hinted at, and her only reason for being is to be endangered in the woods later and briefly advocating for the comatose mother.

One brother awakens to find the TV on, the phone cord ripped out, the side door open, all their tires flattened, and the half-brothers missing, when a duo of masked villains are shown lurking in the woods. Breathless running and shaky cam commences, and dialogue consisting of 'Go, go, go.' and 'C'mon', occurs.

Just to keep everyone up to speed, let's take a quick roll call of the characters so far. There's been one doctor who makes house calls, one dad, two brothers, one female to be endangered later, two half-brothers, and one groaning, invalid mother. While I'm no fan of math, one would have to assume that the masked villains would be two of these 8 characters.

At 49 minutes, the movie reboots and attempts to fill in the blanks, which are numerous, resulting in algebra. While I appreciate the attempt, and find the ploy interesting, I still have many problems with this.

First, I don't think the filmmakers have ever spent the night in an old farmhouse in the country. It's very dark. It's very quiet. Farmhouses creak loudly, even when masked intruders aren't wrecking the place. I once spent the night in a supposedly haunted Shaker village turned hotel complex, miles and miles from the nearest bakery, where the guests' collective idea of a raucous good time was sitting in a rocker and knitting, and I swear I could hear every person in the arthritic, nearly 150-year old building breathing, even through the ear-shattering roar of my own metropolis-induced tinnitus.

Remarkably, even though parts of the farmhouse in Mercy are broken by boot-wearing villains, furniture is abruptly rearranged, people plummet down stairs, and wrestle in claw-footed bathtubs; no one seems to wake up. I ate a pecan pie in bed while watching horror films on my computer at 9 pm because there was fuck-all to do while staying at the Shaker village, and I was worried my chewing might disturb the rest of the building, but not that concerned to stop eating, leaving pie crumbs in the rather spartan Shaker-style bed, or that anything might stop the knitting. Side-bar: The next morning at the Shaker village, there was a goat-milking seminar that I avoided.

OK, so I guess I really only have one problem with the plot, and it involves home improvements, or the lack thereof.

No, wait. Like nearly all of the episodes of Scooby Doo, I don't think it's quite fair of a mystery to leave out important information, only to introduce it later to bulk up a thinly-drawn story. Sure, discovery is one thing, but to intentionally leave out clues, characters, puzzle pieces, and plot-points is another. How can you have a Velma "It was Farmer Jenkins!" moment if the guy who did it in the whodunit wasn't even in the first half of the story?

At 57 minutes, a mysterious, ancient VHS tape is found, where the mother shown is shilling for a religious organization and getting a nosebleed.

At 72 minutes, the doctor who makes house calls appears and says, 'It might seem like what we're doing is wrong', which is an understatement, and then there's a sunrise. Now I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, "Hey Stabford, implying that the doctor did it sounds quite a bit like a spoiler, and would negate your claim that the guy who did it wasn't introduced in the beginning of the film."

That shows you how much you know, smarty-pants. There's a big twist and reveal, and the person or persons you thought did it in the first place did it, or did they, but then again, what exactly was done? Karmic retribution of abuse, administered unintentionally, the consequences bumbled through and unconsidered? Heck if I know.

Then someone administers a complex level of medical treatment and an experimental dose of medications under extreme duress and with zero training which seems somewhat unlikely.

Mercy takes a novel approach to a well-worn trope, and it's slow going until it abruptly puts the pedal to the metal. Good and evil, heroes and villains, are all seen through a murky glass, which is fine, I suppose, but I for one would like my nihilism served straight up.

Hmm. After watching that trailer, there was a lot more creaking in it than I remembered. Forget I said anything.

Friday, March 2, 2018

No review this time...

Tom Petty said, 'The waiting is the hardest part', and he's almost right.

In a continuation of a theme from 2017, I've allowed circumstances to dictate my creativity. Throughout the month of February, I either prepared for something to happen, recovered from the thing that happened, or sat in dread waiting for the next thing to happen. That's fine, I suppose.

At the beginning of the month, I had a triumphant trip to Los Angeles, and by "triumphant", I mean, "physically and mentally draining, resulting in caffeine abuse, near starvation, and stultifying boredom".

OK, maybe near starvation is a bit of an exaggeration, because I had plenty of bagels, Romaine lettuce, and Rice Krispy Treats to keep me going. And I might be going a bit over the top as far as boredom goes, because I find myself to be endlessly fascinating, and I can keep myself entertained outside a conference room. And since I slept very little and somehow managed to continue functioning, I couldn't say I was completely physically and mentally drained, because I'm nearly superhuman and can push through any inane Powerpoint presentation when fueled by enough coffee. Unapproved offsite lemon ricotta pancakes and 2 a.m. liquor store Hostess cupcakes can be effective motivators. 

I think I achieved most of my goals. Since time was limited, I could only do so much. Here's a rundown of what I accomplished:

  1. Being completely awesome
  2. Wearing enviable shoes
  3. Going to the Beetlejuice-themed bar
  4. In spite of all attempts from the Corporate offices, continuing to live
  5. Taking corny snapshots of the Walk Of Fame

Please find enclosed corny photos of the Walk Of Fame and my enviable shoes:

The shoes were a provocative statement, inspired by the album Violator by Depeche Mode, featuring the hit singles Policy Of Truth and Enjoy The Silence. Make of that what you will. I'm awfully proud of my shoes' subversive genius.

Overall, I feel the trip was very effective, and I think they got a lot out of my little visit. What I got out of it is immeasurable, and can't be included in a Powerpoint presentation.

Meanwhile, I'm working on some stuff. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Supersizers Go

Currently, I only have 5 unfinished reviews in my drafts, which is pretty great. That does not count all the reviews I discarded in a fit of rage, but who's counting? I've swept the floor, trimmed the dog's toenails, made some soup, well, probably not in that order, but you get the idea. All of these things have been done to keep me from finishing any of those reviews.

Instead, I'm going to knock out this brief review of the television program The Supersizers Go.

Actually, what I'm going to do first is complain about my upcoming trip to Hollywood. Now, don't get excited. It's a stupid business trip, and under no circumstances do I want to go. I'm going to be trapped in all sorts of meetings and conferences from sun-up to sundown, and it's going to be an enormous drag.

To make matters worse, I'm going to be right there on Hollywood Boulevard, trapped in a corporate meeting, forced to eat an inane cheese sandwich, which I was absurdly demanded I order nearly two weeks in advance, and it's not going to be any fun whatsoever. The genius who thought up the idea to proactively order lunch obviously has no idea who they're dealing with. I have the attention span of a gnat, so expect me to change my mind fourteen times on what I want to eat for lunch. I should never have ordered a cheese sandwich. I really should have ordered something else. I was sent a picture-less menu in advance with a deadline. I had a week to think about it. Obviously, I decided at the last moment in a panic, and now I'm filled with cheesy regrets. Why couldn't we have ordered when we arrived? Is this not the Internet Age? Why was this a huge deal? My mind is in a spin. I haven't even had this sandwich yet, and I'm positively sick of it. I'm going to have to blink at people in a corporate setting while eating a soggy cheese sandwich I started hating more than 13 days ago. I have no control over my life.

The sandwich isn't important right now.

Because I'm very sensible, I've prepared for my trip by purchasing outlandish footwear and 80s gothic t-shirts, because I've been told I have to dress business casual and wear a button-down shirt, and I have to wear comfortable shoes, and no one tells me what to wear, and no one tells me to be comfortable. I've never been comfortable in my life, and I'm not starting now. Shoes aren't meant to be comfortable, they're supposed to startle and confuse people, well, at least the pairs I always buy.

I'm going to do business like I always do business, which I suppose means I'm going to be disturbing, alarming, and disruptive, and I'll be doing team building exercises looking like a bearded Nick Cave.

Yes, let's do that trust fall. I'll totally catch you. Don't I look trustworthy?

If I'm allowed to escape, I'm going total tourist on this trip, so if there's any way I can get down to Panpipes Magical Marketplace, I'm going to, which is right down the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where I'll be chasing the ghost of Montgomery Clift until all hours, and I might check out Beetle House LA, which is the Beetlejuice themed nightclub and bar, because like just like Mount Everest, I'll go because it's there. These are things that must be done, because I've been to Los Angeles several times, and every time it has sucked. Meetings upon meetings upon meetings. It was just awful. If you were to quiz me on Los Angeles after any of my business trips, I would have to say it's full of chafing dishes.

Because I'm me, I'll probably stage a mutiny during those team building exercises, and drag everyone down to see William Shatner's star on the Walk Of Fame just to be a jerk and to walk off the bloat of that cheese sandwich. I have zero tolerance for corporately mandated fun, and as Groucho Marx said, 'I wouldn't want to be a member of a team that would involve any sort of team building', although I might be paraphrasing, but that's not really what we should be focusing on. I'm going on a really lame trip, and it's going to be tedious and awful unless I do something drastic and cheesy and mutinous. So if I have to go, I'm going all out. But I'd really rather not go.

Speaking of going, let's get back to The Supersizers Go. Sue from The Great British Bake Off relives moments of British history through its food and clothing, and it's absolutely hysterical. Medieval, Restoration, Edwardian, and even the Eighties, are all experienced through period dishes and fashion, and many animals are eaten, and several are sewn together to create entirely new ones, which is ghastly.

The Medieval version of a Turducken.

The banter flies fast and furious, with Sue describing a cake by saying, 'This sponge has the ping and spring of a Jayne Mansfield hooter', and I'm certainly not going to argue with her about it. Sun-dried tomatoes are eaten, Sue regrets some fondue, and the dulcet tones of Spandau Ballet are heard, but don't let that put you off. It's very funny and informative.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

I'm not really one to go into New Year's resolutions, because I think I'm already pretty great, and I don't need much improvement. In fact, I would consider myself a genius, and someone who's pretty stable. Having said that, I'm going to forget I said that, and explain my New Year's resolutions, which involve a lot of self-improvement. Many times last year, I said I would try to post more reviews. Forget I said that. Sure, you could easily look and see that my number of posts were the fewest since the beginning of this blog, but that's not important right now. What is important is that I'm going to post more from now on, but don't hold me to that, because I could easily change my mind. 2018's posts will be the very best ever, as long as you don't look too deeply.

The following post is a review from October I abandoned. It's probably the best of all the posts from last year I abandoned, which certainly isn't saying much, but ignore I said that. Here it is, it exists. Just ignore all the incomplete thoughts, non sequiturs, and 180 degree turns. It's fine. In fact, it's better than fine. It's the best.

Oh yeah, forget I said anything about New Year's resolutions. I need no improvement, and you can't prove it.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

No one comes to a church because it caught a bad case of the draculas. A buxom dead chick dangles from a church bell because that's the best place to hide them, I suppose. Inexplicable, random, low-lying fog appears. An elderly monsignor climbs up a mountain carrying an absurdly large golden cross, and his companion, a priestly weakling, flops about. Varying stock lightning occurs, along with varying European villages.

Dracula forces the timid priest to dump a rotten corpse out of coffin so Ol' Drac has a place to sleep, which was actually pretty sweet. Then there's a dreary discussion about a spilled beer. The hero has a anachronistic Roger Daltry-esque haircut, which distracts. A grown woman attempt to sleep with a porcelain doll, then climbs absurdly high rooftops. Someone has several 'shnaps'. Dracula lurks about and glares, and little else.

The movie continues with carriage rides, walking, and multiple rooftops. Finally, Drac gets stabbed a few times, falls, bleeds from the eyes, but forgets to change into a bat to escape his fate.

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is a Hammer film, which is about the best thing going for it, and makes it light-years better than any of the Twilight films, which isn't saying much.

In case you missed it, I rambled on about the sci-fi film Taking Earth over at Cultured Vultures. Check it out.